Person: Aitchison, John
John Aitchison was a Scottish statistician who made contributions to distribution theory, practical Bayesian statistics, statistical diagnosis in medicine and other areas of applied and theoretical statistics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- John attended East Linton Primary School, a Victorian stone single storey building which was built in 1880.
- This school had been opened in 1924, two years before Aitchison was born, and when he attended, the headmaster was Andrew H Millar.
- Aitchison excelled at Preston Lodge High School but never had any thoughts of attending university.
- However, when he was in his final year, the headmaster, Andrew Millar, said to him "You'll be going to university, won't you?." Aitchison said later that being a shy boy he certainly was not going to argue with the headmaster, so he said "Yes", and applied to the University of Edinburgh.
- Aitchison was only 13 when World War began in 1939.
- The M.A. degree was a four year course and Aitchison was taught by a collection of leading mathematicians and physicists such as Alec Aitken, Arthur Erdélyi and Max Born.
- Edmund Whittaker should have retired in 1943, the year Aitchison matriculated, but he had agreed to remain in post because of the war and so Aitchison was also taught by Whittaker.
- Aitchison was very successful, being awarded the Foundations of Analysis Medal in 1946 and a Bruce of Grangehill Scholarship in 1947.
- Although the war ended in 1945, young men were still required to undertake two years of national service when Aitchison graduated in 1947.
- One possibility which allowed a mathematics graduate to avoid the military was actuarial work and this was the route Aitchison decided to follow.
- He was fortunate that in 1949, the year he entered Cambridge, a Statistical Laboratory was set up within the Mathematics Faculty although at first it was accommodated in a "temporary hut." Continuing to study statistics at Cambridge, Aitchison was taught by, among others, John Wishart, David Cox (born 1924 and joined the Cambridge Statistical Laboratory in 1950), Henry Daniels (1912-2000, appointed to Cambridge in 1947 and a founder member of the Cambridge Statistical Laboratory), Frank Ascombe (1918-2001, also a founder member of the Cambridge Statistical Laboratory), and Dennis Lindley (1923-2013, appointed as a demonstrator in the Cambridge in 1948 and joined the Statistical Laboratory when it was founded).
- In 1952 Aitchison was appointed as a statistician in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Cambridge.
- When Aitchison joined the Department in 1952 the director was Richard Stone (1913-1991) who was strongly encouraging the Department to undertake research programmes involving statistical methodology.
- Around this time Aitchison published papers such as (with S J Prais) The grouping of observations in regression analysis (1954) and On the distribution of a positive random variable having a discrete probability mass at the origin (1955).
- In the following year Aitchison left Cambridge when he was appointed as a Lecturer in Statistics in the Department of Mathematics of the University of Glasgow.
- It was while he was at Glasgow that Aitchison published The lognormal distribution, with special reference to its uses in economics (1957) written jointly with J A C Brown.
- Alan Brown (1922-1984) was a statistician in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Cambridge from 1952 to 1965 and it was there that he had begun the collaboration with Aitchison resulting in this important book.
- In 1964 Aitchison was promoted to Reader at the University of Liverpool but he only remained there for another two years before returning to the University of Glasgow in 1966 where he was appointed Titular Professor of Statistics and Mitchell Lecturer in Statistics.
- Aitchison continued to hold the chair at the University of Glasgow until 1976 when he was seconded to the University of Hong Kong as Head of the Department of Statistics.
- After a year, during which time he had retained his chair in Glasgow, Aitchison decided to make the move to Hong Kong permanent and resigned his position in Glasgow.
- Thanks to the efforts made by Professor Aitchison, an active, professional forum has been established for practising statisticians in Hong Kong to exchange research findings and opinions.
- In 1989 Aitchison retired from the University of Hong Kong and was made professor emeritus.
- Let us briefly list a few of Aitchison's other papers.
- In addition to honours mentioned above, we note that Aitchison received two highly prestigious awards.
- Professor Aitchison's accomplishments clearly satisfy the requirements.
Born 22 July 1926, East Linton, East Lothian, Scotland. Died 23 December 2016, Glasgow, Scotland.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive